Last week I had a Skype session with my spiritual director, and she began by asking me politely how I was. A torrent of reply spilled forth, and after a few minutes both of us became aware that we hadn’t lit the chalice yet. (For my non-Unitarian Universalist readers, the chalice is a UU thing, a way we use to mark sacred time.) As she lit the flame, she suggested we spend two or three minutes in silence.
In those minutes, I was able to notice what I had just done, notice the jumbled and swirling state of my own thoughts, and to take a few slow breaths. Everything slowed down, and it was like seeing clear patches in a lifting fog. I almost laughed out loud. The sense of relief and relaxation was most welcome, and the conversation that ensued was richer for my having been led to that still place.
I kept thinking about those moments of silence over the next few days, and how good it had felt. My spiritual director suggested we use silence more, because it seemed to be something I need. I thought, “Yes! THAT could be my spiritual practice, something I could do in a disciplined way. Silence. Just… silence.”
I know, I know. You mean, like, meditation?
Yes, sort of. Like meditation, but I don’t worry about needing the latest cushion or bench from Shambala, I don’t need to learn Sanskrit chants, I don’t need to fret about whether my position is Buddha-approved. I can just shut up, breathe, and notice what’s going on in my thoughts. In my body.
This, too, makes me want to laugh out loud. All these years I have not committed to a meditation practice because I didn’t feel like I was “doing it right,” and if I just call it “silence,” there I go. I know how to do it, my anxiety dissolves, and I have a spiritual practice that feels genuinely mine.
And now, a word from Monty Python and the man who couldn’t say “C”:
“You mean, spell ‘bolor’ with a ‘k’? ‘Kolor’?”
“What a silly bunt!”
I now invite YOU to spend a minute, or two, or five, in silence, and offer you a flame to watch as your mind quiets.
Below is a link to a great little thought from the Daily Compass. Very short, and worth the click: Jelly Beans – Daily Compass.
For all my people whose Meyers-Briggs letters end with “P.” And for those whose end with “J” and wonder why we don’t get our act together… That red text is a link; click it to read a fabulous poem.
Forgive me readers, for it has been months since my last post.
There are several beginnings of posts in a file on my computer, and something has been preventing me from finishing and going public with them. Perhaps because I am reading about Buddhism for a class, I am working to be curious about my balking, rather than leaping to my favorite conclusion: I am a loser, a disorganized, lazy, undisciplined and unworthy excuse for a human being.
It has not required hours of meditation for me to be enlightened on this particular matter. In a couple of weeks our worship topic at church is “Expectations;” a major part of what has been holding me back is just that. A fear that I’ll post something that disappoints you. So, hold that thought for a moment and read these words from Kassie Temple, a Catholic Worker:
“While it’s important to be as *effective* as we possibly can in doing vital tasks, it’s even more important to be *faithful* to our gifts and the way they can help meet the world’s needs. When effectiveness is our only norm, we will take on smaller and smaller tasks, because they’re the only ones with which we can be effective.” – Kassie Temple
I felt slightly stricken when I read this, realizing how often and in how many places in my life I fall victim to the trap of perfectionism, of undertaking only those tasks where I know I can be successful.
So here’s the post I promised to some of you who’ve asked me to keep writing. It doesn’t begin to cover all the ideas I’ve had, but I’ll let those wait for another day. Today, I will bite off more than I can chew, write for my book even if those words might not be the ones that end up in the final draft, and offer loving energy to everyone I encounter. And before I even check my email, I will post this on my blog, sending loving energy to YOU, dear readers, and thanking you for reminding me to be faithful to my gifts.
Go, now, and do likewise, offering *your* gifts to the world.
Okay, this really won’t be about time travel at all. But I had to pick a title and I was at a loss, and it has been such a long time since I posted anything. And I’m under the influence of a higher dose of Lyrica for the Torturous Itch. So I am perhaps more willing to be cavalier with my words than I would in an entirely sober state.
Even though I am going to preach my “Getting Saved” sermon for the third time next Sunday, this time in Exeter, NH, I don’t have any great new insights to share right now on the topic. I think one of the reasons I haven’t posted here in a long time is that I’m a bit intimidated by my own blog title. I feel like each time I post, I should be throwing out a lifeline that someone who is drowning could grab hold of, something profound and salvific. Like I could tell you easily enough what Jesus would do in any given situation.
As I finish my first year of ministry, I have been thinking about that odd hubris of ministry – and pondering what makes me, with my messy house, my penchant for procrastination, and my humanist beliefs, a candidate to assume the role of minister, spiritual guide, teacher, confessor, prophetic voice? I once was in my minister’s office, sobbing out my fear and pain over I don’t remember exactly what – my tumor? Mom’s dementia? Andy’s death? my son’s scary choices? my ex-husband’s anger and blame directed at me for said son’s scary choices? Let’s say it was some combination of all of them. I had run out of words and was just crying, when that critical voice in my head said out loud, “How can *I* possibly be a minister?” But I knew it myself even before Michael said it to me: it is exactly in that vulnerable humanity that humble, faithful ministry is rooted. Not just for me, but for all of us.
Maybe this is the rope I’m tossing out there: your bad days, your humiliating mistakes, those bad habits you struggle against and cannot seem to fully break, your anger, and your grief are the keys to compassion, empathy, and the gentle and freeing blessing of forgiveness. It being spring and all, compost is the metaphor that comes immediately to mind. If we let ourselves feel fully, owning our broken places, new life grows forth, enriched by our crumbled past selves.
Maybe this does have something to do with time travel after all.
Grace and peace to my beloved friends of all over the place. I have just finished a wonderful two weeks of intensive classes – Introduction to Pastoral Ministry and Early Christian Scriptures. Each class meets from 9-5, Monday-Friday, and intensive is the right word for it. By the second Friday, we are a little tiny bit fried, and maybe some of us kind of were browsing on Google Images looking for pictures of the seven-eyed, ten-horned, slaughtered Lamb and the seven-headed dragon described in Revelations, while of course also listening to our instructor with rapt attention. One of us, possibly me, stumbled upon a picture of a Lego scene of the four living animals and from there, discovered the Brick Testament.
This site is NOT recommended for young children without parental pre-screening due to violent and/or sexually explicit material – straight from The Good Book, but still. Have you read that book?! It should have a parental warning on the cover!
Well, I’ve been fretting that I haven’t posted anything lately and y’all will forget me. So, if you have a moment and are willing to let me be a librarian instead of an author, I highly recommend this reflection by Janine Benyus about the saving potential of learning more humbly from nature.